Adv Rina Meyer
Contact number: 082 807 2994
Office address: 7 Ryneveld Plaza Building, Ryneveld Street, Stellenbosch
For appointments: Sharon Fortuin (email@example.com)
The University of Stellenbosch has decided to appoint an ombudsman who acts totally independently. In doing so, the University has created a channel through which appropriate attention can be given to all problems and complaints from students, parents of students or personnel that the existing University structures are unable to deal with satisfactorily according to the normal channels, or that the existing structures are, for whatever reason, inadequate, as apparent from sufficient motivation presented by the complainant or complainants.
'OMBUD' – WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
The term 'ombudsman', 'ombudsperson' or 'ombud' (from 'om budz man' – Swedish for 'citizens' defender') refers to a person who assists individuals or groups to resolve conflicts or concerns. The Office of the Ombud at Stellenbosch University (SU) is an independent, neutral and confidential space for people to discuss their issues and concerns relating to the University. The University Ombud is an independent person appointed to facilitate the informal resolution of concerns regarding the University. Also, the Ombud typically investigates complaints and attempts to resolve them, usually through discussion, mediation and recommendations.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE OMBUD WITHIN THE UNIVERSITY?
The Ombud does not replace existing University structures; on the contrary, the Ombud's role complements and supplements these structures. Therefore, complainants must exhaust the normal SU procedures before involving the Ombud. Only if their problem remains unsolved after a reasonable period has expired, complainants may turn to the Ombud. If the available channels have not been explored thoroughly, the Ombud will refer complainants back to those channels.
WHAT ARE THE CORE PRINCIPLES OF THE OMBUD'S ROLE?
- Independence and neutrality (operates independently of University structures)
- Objectivity and impartiality (hears the stories and views of all parties)
- Informality (does not require formal structures)
- Promptness and efficiency (facilitates problems being solved faster)
- Confidentiality (will not reveal anyone's identity without their permission)
- Equality and fairness (focuses on the main question: Has fairness been observed?)
- Dignity (respects the dignity of all parties)
WHO MAY LODGE A COMPLAINT OR QUERY WITH THE SU OMBUD?
All SU employees, students, parents of students, alumni, visitors and service providers may approach the Ombud in the following instances:
- They feel that they have been treated unfairly.
- They are unsure which policies, procedures, et cetera would apply to their problem.
- They are unsure how to solve a complicated issue.
- They need an impartial listener who will observe confidentiality.
- They need a neutral mediator to resolve a problem.
- They have a complaint or wish to discuss a sensitive concern.
- They have exhausted all the prescribed internal processes, but still feel dissatisfied with how the matter was handled.
Please note: The discretion as to dealing with a complaint or problem, or not, as well as to the manner in which it is dealt with, lies exclusively with the Office of the Ombud; subject, however, to the guidelines below.
HOW CAN THE OFFICE OF THE OMBUD HELP?
- Hears concerns and helps to clarify them.
- Provides a safe and confidential forum for voicing problems.
- Analyses the problem and identifies options.
- Sets out which channels are available.
- Provides neutral advice while protecting confidentiality.
- Expedites matters that have been unduly delayed.
- Redirects complainants to other offices better suited to mediate the issue concerned.
- Helps to identify underlying issues.
- Explores different options through both formal and informal channels.
- Assists parties in resolving disputes.
- Makes recommendations for change.
WHAT CAN THE OFFICE OF THE OMBUD NOT HELP YOU WITH?
- Make decisions on behalf of the University.
- Make or overrule University policies or established procedures (though the Ombud may comment on or recommend change, or do both, regarding these areas).
- Intervene if the complaint can be pursued as a grievance according to established University procedure.
- Accept notifications on behalf of the University or any party.
- Consider complaints that are already the subject of a lawsuit.
- Give legal advice or provide psychological counselling,
- Award compensation.
- Act as representative for any party.
- Handle purely academic matters.
- Attend to patently vexatious or frivolous complaints.
Should the Ombud decline to assist in a matter, the reasons will be stated.
WHAT RISK IS INVOLVED IN CONSULTING THE OMBUD?
None. The University guarantees that no-one will suffer reprisal, discrimination or victimisation for seeking assistance from the Ombud. In terms of the South African Constitution, everyone is entitled to privacy, access to information, administrative action that is just, et cetera. The University and the Office of the Ombud respect these rights.
HOW TO LODGE A COMPLAINT OR QUERY WITH THE OFFICE OF THE OMBUD?
To submit a complaint or concern for the Ombud's consideration, please complete and submit the Complaints Form (online here). The form is also available from Ms Sharon Fortuin – either as an electronic document (at firstname.lastname@example.org) or a hard copy.
To make an appointment with the Ombud, please e-mail Ms Fortuin.
In matters of urgency, you may e-mail email@example.com or call 082 807 2994.